Editorial - FIFA's 'The Best' Awards
On the morning after FIFA’s back-slapping awards gala, now dubbed rather pretentiously The Best, I can’t help but wonder what it all means - if anything.
I’ve long held the belief that thinking about football is incredibly one-dimensional where this attacking Garden of Eden we live in means that defenders & goalkeepers simply don’t count. Especially when it comes to individual awards. Manuel Neuer should have been the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin (1963) to win the award in 2014.
And yet I find myself wondering whether Virgil van Dijk was hard done by last night in losing out to Argentinian demigod Lionel Messi.
The statuesque Dutchman personifies Jürgen Klopp’s new Liverpool. Strong, resilient, skilful rolled into a single colossus of a defender. He is a footballing warrior. He has been key to Liverpool’s success. He is, at times, unbeatable.
In most eras, I would be screaming at FIFA & UEFA and every other governing body under the sun to lavish him, adore him & shower him with every golden ball they have in their possession. But this is the era of Messi. This is very different. And sadly for Virgil van Dijk, this is an individual award. The Rosario Rex scored 51 goals in 50 games last season, including 12 in 10 in the Champions League, and so it makes it near-impossible not to give him the gong.
There has been a lot of debate as to whether Megan Rapinoe deserved to win the women’s award too. This, for me, was less controversial. A totemic figure that scored 6 World Cup goals, including 2 against the much-favoured hosts France in the quarterfinals, she helped to drive her team to a second successive title. She did this in the face of monumental pressure including, from bizarrely, the orange White House invader, Donald Trump.
Jill Ellis was good value for the coach of the year award.
Marta - who is one of my personal idols - perhaps unfairly, was included in the team of the year. Ada Hegerberg’s decision to boycott the World Cup probably counted against her as much as anything. After all, why would FIFA want to honour someone who didn’t want to play ball?
The main takeaways?
There aren’t any.
These awards for individual brilliance will always be relatively subjective. People will always be unhappy with whoever wins - unless it is their chosen one.
Better to just enjoy the football.
That really is the best.
Words by J.S. Leatherbarrow. Artwork by FATC staff. All rights reserved.